This morning we are in Mark 1:29-39.
Last week we sat in on the most interesting synagogue service in the history of Capernaum. Jesus with his new followers entered the synagogue for the Sabbath service. His teaching blew them away. As they were sitting there in awe, an otherworldly voice pierced the air – “what do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth”. The whole room turned and, electrified with the shock, anticipated the coming conflict. Before it began, Jesus ended it: “silence, come out of him”. The congregation was doubly amazed and word spread throughout the area.
Today we pick up the action on that same day. Following the Sabbath service, Jesus and his team head over to Peter’s house.
The House of Peter
“Within a stone’s throw of the Capernaum synagogue lies a structure that can reasonably be identified as the house of Peter. The house is part of a large “
insula” complex, in which doors and windows open to an interior court rather than outward to the street. The court, accessed by a gateway from the street, was the center of the lives of the dwellings around it, containing hearths, millstones for grain, hand-presses, and stairways to the roofs of dwellings. The dwellings were constructed of heavy walls of black basalt over which a flat roof of wood and thatch was placed. Although the dwelling in question underwent various developments in succeeding centuries, archaeological investigations have discovered sacred and devotional graffiti in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Aramaic (125+) scratched on the plaster walls, indicating that it was venerated as a gathering place for Christians, and perhaps as a church, from the end of the first century or the beginning of the second. No site, incidentally, has been identified in Scripture or tradition as Jesus’ house, and it may be that Jesus lived with Peter in Capernaum.” -James Edwards
The ruins of Capernaum were rediscovered in the late 1800s. In 1905 excavations began which revealed a church structure from the 5th century. In the 1960s further excavations uncovered earlier layers.
The 3rd layer revealed the ruins of a home which contained pottery typical of 1st century household usage. The largest room had plaster on the floors, walls and ceilings, dating to the mid 1st century. It’s the only home in Capernaum with plaster, indicating that it was used as a public space.
The home sits at a distance of84 feet from the synagogue.
Archaeologists James H. Charlesworth and Mordechai Aviam outline 5 reasons they are confident the house is Peter’s in the book Jesus Research:
- First, we know of only one possible and traditional house of Peter and Capernaum.
- Second, a fifth-century octagonal church was built over an earlier house, this indicates the site was considered sacred, and Peter’s house, in early Byzantine times.
- Third, in the second or late first century CE the house received plaster on its walls and floors, an indication of special status, and the name “Petros” may be painted on the plaster.
- Fourth, the lack of household utensils in this house increases the possibility that the place became a “house church.”
- Fifth, the house was used in the first century BCE and the first century CE, and fishing hooks were found in situ. One may conclude, with some probability, not only that this house was revered as Peter’s house but that it is the house of Peter in which Jesus taught. The Evangelists reported that Jesus performed many miracles in Capernaum (Mt 8:5; Mk 1:21-28; 2:1-12; Lk 7:1-10; Jn 4:46-54); some of them were in Peter’s house or nearby.
At this scene, we will see the love of Jesus on full display.
The greatness of the Savior’s love.
The insignificance of the circumstance.
Of all the great cities in the world, of all the great palaces and mansions, the Messiah chose this modest home in a small fishing town.
Of all the great and powerful people in the world, He chooses to give his attention to an aging, live-in mother-in-law, contentedly living her life behind the scenes in her daughter’s home.
The greatness of the Savior’s love is revealed in the insignificance of the moment – a very common problem in the home of very common people.
Alexander Maclaren observed that “it was done evidently without the slightest intention of vindicating Christ’s mission, or of preaching any truth whatever, and so it starts up into a new beauty as being simply and solely a manifestation of His love. I think, when some people are so busy in denying, and others in proving, the miraculous element in Scripture, and others in drawing doctrinal or symbolical lessons out of it, that there is great need to emphasize this, that the first thing about all Christ’s miracles, and most conspicuously about this one, is that they were the welling out of His loving heart which responded to the sight of human sorrow. . .The deed that had no purpose whatsoever except to lighten the burden upon a disciple’s heart, and to heal the passing physical trouble of one poor old woman, is great, just because it is small; and full of teaching because, to the superficial eye, it teaches nothing.”
The intimate touch of his hand.
Jesus can heal however he wants. With a word, from a distance. He reaches out his hand to raise her out of her suffering.
What can we learn about that grasping of hands? When the grip of Jesus strengthened and calloused by years of manual labor gently reached down to hold the aged hand wrinkled by years and weakened by illness.
Here’s Maclaren again:
“Why did He stoop and touch the woman, and take her by the hand and gently lift her up? Because His heart went out to her, because He felt the emotion and sympathy which makes the whole world kin, and because His heart was a heart of love, and bade Him come into close contact with the poor fever-ridden woman. Unless we regard that hand-clasp as being such an instinctive attitude and action of Christ’s sympathetic love, we lose the deepest significance of it. . . The touch upon the fevered hand of that old woman in Capernaum was as a condensation into one act of the very principle of the Incarnation and of the whole power which Christ exercises upon a fevered and sick world. For it is by His touch, by His lifting hand, by His sympathetic grasp, and by our real contact with Him, that all our sicknesses are banished, and health and strength come to our souls.”
This miracles teaches us a great deal.
No person is too insignificant for Jesus’ attention.
No problem is too small for Jesus’ care.
Do you feel small? Do your concerns feel pitifully irrelevant in the grand scheme of things? Turn your thoughts to Capernaum and take heart. See the great love of the Savior and bring your concerns to him.
Notice the simplicity of the action. Mark tells us simply that they told Jesus about the woman’s illness.
Notice what they did not do:
- They did not look to her need and say, “this is too small”.
- They did not say, “she is too small”.
- They did not passively resign themselves – “if Jesus wanted to heal her he would have.”
- Or – “we probably deserve this”.
- That woman did not hold on to her problem and milk it for attention or freedom from responsibility.
They saw the Savior and simply told him their need. And he responded.
In Jesus the world saw tangibly what it had been told conceptually.
“I am the Lord, your healer [Jehovah Rapha].”
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
We can be no more like Christ than when we enter into the ordinary world of ordinary people to meet them in their ordinary needs.
Now let’s move from the greatness to the effect of the love of Jesus.
The effect of Jesus love.
The love of the Savior is not ineffective.
What immediately follows the healing? Service. She got up and immediately began to serve.
Is this demeaning?
Not to Mark.
The word translated serve, diakonos, is used for Jesus himself later in Mark.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
When the disciples got into an argument about who was the greatest among them, Jesus gathered them up to correct their understanding of greatness.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
It’s the duty and privilege of every Christian to take on the role of servant.
Dad’s it’s a duty and an honor to serve our wives and kids when we get home from work. Moms it’s a duty and an honor to serve those little ones and your husband in your home. It’s an honor to represent Christ in the work-place with an attitude of servanthood.
It gave Peter’s mother-in-law dignity and purpose to serve and honor the ancient tradition of hospitality.
I think Peter was purposeful in making sure Mark understood what happened. And Mark recorded it for posterity.
Healing leads to wholeness leads to helping.
There is something important in this for us.
He meets us in our need with grace.
His grace turns our need into abundance.
It’s not always the way in our culture.
We make a virtue out of victimhood. We make pain perpetual. We make wounds into weakness.
Jesus takes victims and makes them conquerors. Jesus transforms pain into peace and weakness into strength.
“who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
2 Corinthians 1:4
Charles Colson is a great example of this principle.
He was Richard Nixon’s hatchet man, doing the politician’s dirty work. Colson’s career was ruined by the Watergate Scandal in 1972.
Raytheon chairman Thomas Phillips gave him a copy of Mere Christianity and he became a Christian.
He was invited to join a prayer group with Doug Coe, Harold Hughes, Al Quie and Graham Purcell.
The first meeting was at Quie’s house because he had a long driveway with heavy maple trees and no street lights. The meeting was held at 9 at night in the dark to avoid public eye.
Harold Hughes stood up and said, “chuck, if you’ve come to know Christ, and I believe you have, I’m your brother for life” and gave him a bear hug. They started meeting together after that every Tuesday morning for breakfast.
Shortly after Colson plead guilty to obstruction of justice and was sent to prison.
Seven months in a crisis developed in his family. Al Quie discovered an old law that allowed a guilty person to be released if an innocent person took his place. He offered to trade places with Colson.
That act of love melted Colson’s heart and planted a seed. Soon Colson began a ministry to prisoners.
He founded Prison Fellowship International – a massive non-profit with a presence in over 1,000 prisons, reaching hundreds of thousands of incarcerated men and women each year, involving direct gospel ministry to those in prison, training addiction recovery, parenting, life skills, seeking to transform the climate of prisons by educating and training wardens and lobbying for prison reform.
“But all at once I realized that it was not my success God had used to enable me to help those in this prison, or in hundreds of others just like it. My life of success was not what made this morning so glorious — all my achievements meant nothing in God’s economy.
“No, the real legacy of my life was my biggest failure — that I was an ex-convict. My greatest humiliation — being sent to prison — was the beginning of God’s greatest use of my life; He chose the one thing in which I could not glory for His glory.”
Through the Savior’s love, our weakness becomes strength and our need becomes abundance.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
1 Peter 4:10
Christian, you are a conqueror. You are a minister of God’s love to this world. There is a world of need outside these doors.
Some of us need to rise up with the healing strength we have already received and shake off the fog of victimhood smothering our culture.
Some of us need to bring our wounds to Jesus for healing.
You may feel your strength is small. But you have some strength. What can you do with it? Who can you serve?
You can offer a prayer for someone who is sick, you can give a word of encouragement to someone who is down. You can sign up to make a meal for Hope is Alive or volunteer to assemble furniture for an Afghan refugee.
The Power of the Savior’s Love
Can you imagine the joy and fellowship around the afternoon meal that day in Peter’s house? Can you imagine the excitement and anticipation of the little crowd with Jesus?
They didn’t have to wait long to find out what would happen next.
That evening as the first 3 stars came out and signaled the end of the Sabbath, a knock sounded at the door.
The whole town came out. Probably not literal, but probably hundreds of people.
They had waited for the Sabbath to end. The elders of the synagogue would not have allowed a crowd on the Sabbath. They could not help these people, but they could make sure that they followed the rules.
As one commentator wryly noted: “After the sun set and the religious services closed, the real work of the kingdom could begin.”
Can you imagine watching Jesus at work that night? If you ever make it to the middle east and visit the site of Capernaum, you can stand at the scene yourself. You can close your eyes and picture what it was like to see the love of Jesus confronting the ailments and enemies of the people.
It’s important to remember the power behind Jesus’ acts of healing and deliverance.
“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.”
When the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, it was as if a great light was turned on in a dark room.
Wherever he went, all manner of illness and unclean spirits came to light.
He would not permit them to speak, because they knew him? Why is that? Why did Jesus instruct those he healed not to tell anyone?
1. It was necessary because Messianic utterances carried a military connotation.
a. Inappropriate to his mission.
b. An invitation to Roman response.
c. (He needed the reality to get ahead of the rumors)
2. Contrary to the profile of the Servant (fame and popularity)
a. Characterized by restraint and humbleness
b. “The faith of his disciples must be evoked through humility and ultimately through suffering. If one will not receive Jesus in this form, one will not receive Jesus in all his power and majesty.”
3. Only on the Cross can Jesus truly be known
a. namely, that until the consummation of Jesus’ work on the cross all speculations about him are premature.
The source of Jesus’ love.
The source of Jesus’ love is revealed the following morning. After saying up very late into the night confronted with the needs of others, Jesus needed to recharge. He got up early and went out into the wild places to be alone with his Father.
Edwards observes that Mark records Jesus praying only three times in the Gospel;
- here (1:35),
- following the feeding of the five thousand (6:46),
- and in Gethsemane (14:32–39).
“All three occur at night and in solitary places. All three also occur in contexts of either implied or expressed opposition to Jesus’ ministry.”
He was dependent on God.
“The work of the Son of God is both an inward and an outward work. Jesus cannot extend himself outward in compassion without first attending to the source of his mission and purpose with the Father; and, conversely, his oneness with the Father compels him outward in mission. The significance of Jesus’ ministry consists not simply in what he does for humanity, but equally in who he is in relation to the Father. Jesus is, according to Mark’s narrative, neither contemplative ascetic nor social activist. He does not promote an agenda but derives a ministry from a relationship with the Father. He is the Son, one in being with the Father; and the Servant, one in purpose with his will.” -Edwards
Christian, when is the last time you got away to be with your Father? When is the last time you set aside to be with him, just because you can?
We tend to make prayer a discipline. It’s something we know we are supposed to do. It’s what good Christians do.
I think that concept was foreign to Jesus.
I think prayer was for Jesus a necessity and a delight.
Christian, your Father loves you. He delights in your company.
Why not take some time this week to get away and just sit in his presence?
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown